- Marc Stein, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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LAS VEGAS -- Dwight Howard disclosed that he could actually throw down on a basket 12 feet, 3 inches high -- not a mere 12 feet -- if this were a league that allowed raised rims in the dunk contest.
Shaquille O'Neal enjoyed Jim Durham's suggestion, in a nod to O'Neal's advancing age, that he might want to start calling himself The Big Methuselah ... but not without this disclaimer from Shaq: "Can you spell it for me?"
A fiery Kevin Garnett, meanwhile, repeatedly tried to stare holes right through a certain ESPN.com correspondent as he described how it feels to watch pundits on TV debating his future on their "little funny talk shows."
Those were just a few of the standout talking points in a third-floor hotel suite at The Palms on Friday afternoon. A kind invite from ESPN Radio to sit in on their annual sitdowns with various All-Stars enabled me to see the big names stop by, one by one, for some candid (and comparatively private) conversation while the NBA's version of Super Bowl media day played out in a crowded, chaotic ballroom two floors below.
The interviews will air in full Saturday night on ESPN Radio's Meet the All-Stars program at 6 p.m. ET, with audio clips bound thereafter for ESPN.com and ESPNRadio.com.
The following 10 snippets are a preview of what you'll be hearing from the players' roundtable discussions with Durham, Dr. Jack Ramsay, Will Perdue and host Mark Kestecher:
1. Garnett on why he hasn't heeded external suggestions to ask Minnesota to trade him:
"It sounds like people want better for me. And my perspective is, why do I have to be the component that's moved? Why can't organizations change? ... Why can't things change in the front office to bring in different people to better it?
"I've seen players move on and go to other situations and it just be a stalemate. ... If I did decide to make a decision on moving or whatever, I'm going to make sure that it's going to be for the better. I'm not into inheriting someone's problems or going through the same problems [elsewhere] that I'm used to [in Minnesota]. Plus, man, I have hope. I'm not one of these people who just up and bail when things are tough.
"I'll take your hits. I'll take your comments. I'll take what you put out there because obviously you have a job to do. ... But I won't compromise my values. When I feel like it's time to make a decision on moving, then I will. But it will be on my terms and when I feel I'm ready."
2. Dwyane Wade on his growing feud with Dirk Nowitzki:
"The whole situation that happened with the Dallas situation, if anybody knows me, they know I'm not the guy who goes and says things in the paper back and forth.
"But Dirk was taking shots at my team all summer. And my team, we really earned our championship. We won four games in a row. You don't do that by luck. I just felt it was time to stick up for my team and let 'em know that we are champions for a reason. I just said something.
"I'm not going no further with it. I respect Dirk, I love him as a player, but I was just standing up for my team."
3. Nowitzki on Wade:
"I guess Dwyane didn't like what I said [about] how we feel that we lost the NBA Finals and that I said we feel like we gave it away a little bit, being up 2-0 and up 10 [points] with a couple minutes left in Game 3. I guess he reacted a little sensitive to that and came back at me.
"I said something he didn't like, he said something I didn't like, but to me that's over now. We're focusing on basketball again. It's going to be obviously a great game on Thursday [in Dallas] when we see them at home.
"But I don't really look at it as a rivalry yet. We [only] played them once in the Finals."
4. Steve Nash on the role soccer had in shaping his game:
"I think it's impacted me in a lot of ways. I think obviously [it helps] your coordination, balance, timing, footwork, endurance.
"But I think also the way I played soccer, I learned a lot about angles and seeing the field that's translated to basketball. ... In soccer, you have to find creative ways to get the ball to your teammates around players or over players or into spaces. When I was able to start playing basketball and use my hands, I felt like, 'This is cheating.' "
5. Shaq on the defending champs entering the All-Star break with the No. 8 seed in the East:
"It's [still] going to be us and Detroit again in the Eastern Conference finals. We just have to get to that level where we can beat them and move on. We're not there yet, but we will be."
6. Jason Kidd on whether he expects to still be a Net after next Thursday's trading deadline:
"In this league, I learned really fast and young that you always have to have a bag packed."
7. Rip Hamilton on his inability, for two years running, to convince NBA vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson to pick him for the Three Point Shootout:
"Last year I told him: 'Look, next year, just keep my name out there. I want to be a part of it. I want to have fun just like everybody else and be in the 3-point contest. I think I can win. So just think about me next year.' [But Jackson] forgot about me again. So every time I see him now, I'm in his ear."
8. Carmelo Anthony on his new partnership with Allen Iverson:
"[With] my confidence, I really think that it can come together [soon]. ... As far as me and AI, it's going to take more than four games for us to gel out there and for us to be where we really want to be. Hopefully we can do it in about 15 games or the next 30 games, but I really [think we'll] be intact next season. That's when we're really going to see it."
9. LeBron James on recent suggestions from Gilbert Arenas that James would rather not take the Cavs' big shots in crunch time:
"I have absolutely not seen him [here in Vegas] and I think he's ducking me. But I'm looking for him."
10. Arenas on another firestorm he caused recently, vowing to score 50 points against Portland and falling 41 short:
"Everybody's talking about the nine, but I still actually have one more game against them. That's not out the window."
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.
On Friday, Marc Stein and ESPN Radio got some face time with the NBA's greatest players, and we have the highlights.